This part is interesting considering the info. PG dropped yesterday (But even if what PG says is true, there's probably no way they would outright say that Crash, Cloud, etc. were eventually dropped even if they were):
Were any characters or stages explored but then dropped?
Characters, no. The version of the level Hades, which is a mashup between God of War and Patapon, we’ve made that level twice. The version that’s in the game now is very different to the one we started out with. The original one didn’t have the character Hades appear, it was just more of a trap-filled level.
Edit: Beaten, feel free to ignore this thread